Electron Kinetics Eagle 2 power amplifier Sam Tellig
This is the John Iverson Electron Kinetics Eagle 2 amplifierwhat a mouthful! I gather the amp is already something of a legend, like Iverson himself. Of the many Iverson stories circulated at CES, I like best the one where Iverson walks into a dealer carrying both an Eagle 7A and an Eagle 2 amplifier. He balances the 7A (110 lbs!) on his knee to free up a hand for a shake. Now that's the way to get undivided attention.
This $895 amp is tidy and compact, not bad looking, but a little strange in appearance. I wondered whether Mr. Iverson was influenced by the Indian cultures out there in Lake Havasu City, Arizona: the rack-mount handles reminded me of twin totem poles! The Eagle certainly sounds like it should cost a lot more: it's ballsy, dynamic, powerful, and above all, detailed. Those who think only a preamp can be detailed should try the Eagle 2. And harmonic textures! Instrumental timbres sound absolutely right through the Eagle. This amp is clean (assuming you're not giving it garbage), clear, bracing, and refreshing.
The Eagle has been criticized in some quarters as being a little hard in the high frequencies, but I'm not sure this is the Eagle's fault. More than any other power amp I've used, the Eagle's sound depends on links in the chain. The wrong cartridge or arm can make the sound shrill, the wrong preamp might make it hard. Use the wrong interconnects (!) and you may not like what you hear (though you won't go wrong with the latest Monster Interlink Reference). But take the trouble to get these things right, and the Eagle will reward you with superb sound (footnote 1). As you may have inferred, the Superphon Revelation Basic Dual Mono preamp is an excellent choice with the Eagle 2, as is the new Signet MR 5.01c cartridge.
How does the Eagle score against other favorite Cheapskate amps? It's more powerful-sounding and more detailed, but perhaps a little less forgiving in the upper midrange, than the Quad 405-2. It offers slightly better definition than the Denon POA-1500 Mark II, though the Denon remains very competitive at $695 (with discounts usually available), and may be slightly more forgiving than the Eagle. You may have to decide what you want: music or detail. Likewise, the B&K ST-140 remains an excellent buy at $440, with its euphonic MOSFET sound very musical, but with a slight velvet fog. And there's the Adcom GFA-555 ($600) which AHC raved about in the last issue (thereby scooping the Cheapskate in his own backyard!). I'm already in line for the 555, and first in line for a less-expensive 100Wpc version ($400) that Adcom is coming out with.
The Eagle is an excellent power amp, well worth an audition. But it's not the only game in townstay tuned.Sam Tellig
Footnote 1: This is not an amp for tube lovers, though, who may very well find the Eagle's purity and clarity too pure and clear.